Twenty-one-year-old Ross Lynch, who starred as a crushworthy musician on Disney Channel's Austin & Ally for five years and who headed up two Teen Beach Movie installments for the network, isn't on the typical Mouse House trajectory of some of his forebears.
When I met him back in 2012, he struck me as a potential future Michael Jackson or Justin Timberlake, displaying effortless dance skills and bursting into song while I attempted to corral him for an interview for the teen mag I founded. He also had mega-charm, enough to stick out among a cast of talents that included similarly charismatic Garrett Clayton.
Instead of a solo journey, Lynch surprised me by eschewing the Hilary/Miley/Demi/Selena route, focusing on music with his mostly-family rock band R5 and, now, by choosing a movie role that represents a 180 from his perky Disney character Austin Moon, that of a teenage Jeffrey Dahmer before his serial-killing days in the well-received My Friend Dahmer.
It's a disturbing film, one that could best be described as coming-of-rage.
In the film, which is in theaters now, he brings to life a pathologically awkward teenage boy whose family trouble, social-outcast status and verboten, unannounced homosexuality make him strangely relatable ... until you remind yourself that the character would, in real life, grow up to kill and eat a bunch of innocent dudes.
I spoke with Lynch about this unique moment in his life and career, when everybody's niece knows him and more adults are getting the memo every day, as well as all about the bold-as-hell movie that is helping to put him on the grown-up map ...